WH Denies Threatening Woodward; Merely Said He Would Regret Exercising Free Speech

Now that the White House has made the official denial that anyone threatened Bob Woodward, perhaps we can use the incident to ask a question. Just how popular is Obama with the media? Obviously, a majority of reporters are infatuated with him, but what happened to veteran reporter Bob Woodward shows us how the cheerleading section isn’t formed only by enthusiasm. It gets maintained and enforced.

When Woodward pointed out the obvious fact that Obama had moved “the goal posts” on the sequester, the only reasonable response from the White House would have been to gloat. Instead, they are putting out a response that resembles their instructions to former White House Speaker Robert Gibbs to lie about the drone program that everyone knew about.

I’m no fan of Bob Woodward, but he obviously got fed up with the fact that the Administration can get away with anything as far as the media is concerned.  He simply wanted to report on the facts.

“So when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts. His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made.”

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Notice that Woodward is a liberal who believes in wealth redistribution. He isn’t criticizing Obama at all in terms of political philosophy. Yet Gene Sperling, Obama’s “economic” advisor yelled at Woodward over this claim (sorry, the idea that Obama gets any advice that actually derives from real economics is preposterous; thus the quotation marks). Sperling’s email apology for “raising my voice in our conversation today,” give some confirmation to Woodward’s account (Woodward claims it lasted about half an hour). But then Sperling’s email contains this:

“But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim.”

In the interview when he first spoke of this email, Woodward doesn’t directly claim that Sperling was making a threat, but he obviously thinks the email was significant. Even Woodward defenders have argued that the emails don’t involve any threats. After all, Woodward replied to Sperling in a very friendly way.

But what would Woodward do if he did feel threatened by a powerful person? What would anyone do if they were thinking clearly? First, you do your best to smooth over the hurt feelings and placate the anger. Check.

Then, you make sure the statement is a matter of public record. Check.

Then, if you are a reporter who needs access to those same powerful people, you magnanimously state that you never said they threatened you. Check.

Sounds like a threat to me.

What about a reporter who doesn’t have the stature of Bob Woodward? How many stories have been killed? How many reporters have been demoted or even fired? More to the point, how many make sure their reporting doesn’t get them into that kind of trouble? If Obama could get away with brazen “truth squads” in 2008, I have no doubt he and his minions keep order by intimidation and punishment whenever necessary.

I’m not trying to exonerate the mainstream media. But it is worth pointing out, if you feel overwhelmed by the consensus against you, that the consensus is bolstered and purified by some degree of coercion.

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